Why Do I AgVocate? – Karla Salp

What is your role in agriculture?

Right now I see my role in agriculture as helping create a culture that supports all forms of agriculture. There are two aspects to this: the public and the agriculture industry. I work to help the public understand and embrace modern agriculture. I also strive to help the agriculture industry to see the value in working together and using technology – especially social media and video platforms – to actively engage with the public.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

Growing up on a farm naturally tends to make one an agvocate because you have been able to see and experience first-hand the value that agriculture has. Those of us who have left the farm, I think, have a unique opportunity to be agvocates because we have a foot in each world – the farm life and the non-farm life. I was only in college for a few weeks when I met someone who said that until driving from Seattle to Washington State University (through the bread basket of Washington) he thought farms didn’t exist anymore, except as something like civil war reenactments! It was common in my family to bring friends home from school to give them a taste of the farm life. A favorite of ours was letting them try to start a siphon tube. Whenever relatives visited, we always took them on a “farm tour” to see how the crops were doing and to educate them about the natural history of the area. So I guess agvocating was just a part of life as I grew up.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

My favorite part is seeing a farmer’s eyes light up as the share about their passion for agriculture without feeling defensive and seeing their quiet pride come through. When ag folks are authentically passionate without being defensive, I think that is when they can really reach people.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

The most challenging part of being an agvocate is seeing the division and lack of unity of purpose within the agriculture field itself. In my experience, few recognize the need to promote farmers themselves, not just their commodity. Some people in the ag industry see the need to promote a common message about farmers beyond marketing a product, but too few do. To me this is the greatest weakness and threat to agriculture today.

What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

The public needs to see that you are a real person. Be human and real with them. Admit mistakes. Most of all, it can’t be all about you. If you want people to hear your message, you need to understand what motivates them. You need to care about them, too.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?

I attended the AgChat conference in Austin, TX. I was very impressed with how many people from the midwest were actively agvocating. There don’t seem to be nearly as many agvocating – at least using social media – on the West Coast.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

I am very supportive of the AgChat Foundation’s mission. It is so necessary for those in the ag industry to learn to use social media to virtually leave the farm and bring others to their farm. Our culture is having a huge discussion about where their food comes from and for too long we have been letting others tell our story for us. AgChat gives people the tools to become part of the conversation once again.


Karla SalpKarla Salp grew up on a farm in George, WA. Although she loved living on a farm, she never imagined that she would be working in the agriculture field one day. After working as a crime victim advocate for a decade, she returned to her agriculture roots when starting to work for a statewide agriculture organization called Washington Friends of Farms & Forests. Part of her role there included educating the public about agriculture through their “Washivore” project. Karla also served for a year as the Executive Director of Washington Grown, a nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about agriculture through a television show and social media engagement. Karla currently works for the Washington State Department of Agriculture as a public outreach specialist.

Make sure to follow Karla on her blog, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Custom Facebook Cover Photos

Facebook is a great place to share your farm or ranch. Having a Facebook cover photo is more important than you might think. It gives visitors a glimpse into your farm/ranch. You can of course select one of your favorite photos or you can create a personalized cover photo.

There are two great options in creating custom cover photos, PicMokey.com and Canva.com. My personal favorite is Canva. So head on over to Canva for a quick walk through on how to create a custom Facebook cover for your page.

Canva Screen shot

Above you find the main screen for Canva.

You can create most anything you want using Canva. So click on “Facebook Cover“.

Canva Screen Shot

Now you are on the main page to create a “Facebook Cover”.

The thing I love about Canva is that it shows you where your “Profile Picture” will be. This helps if you want to include words or information about your farm/ranch or blog on your cover photo. To the left you will see options to pick premade layouts, add elements (shapes, lines, etc.), add text, select a premade background or upload one of you farm photos to use as the background image.

You can select a premade layout and simply add in photos of your farm or ranch as seen below.AgChat Cover2You can also choose to use one of your farm photos as the background.

AgChat FB CoverPersonalize it with words, your farm/ranch logo and/or your blog URL.

Note: To upload your farm/ranch logo just select upload. It is the same option you use to upload your photos.

Spend a little time playing around with the many features Canva has to offer to see what type of cover photo works best for you. You can switch them up with the different seasons or if something new is happening on your farm/ranch.

Why Do I AgVocate? – Rae Charlton Wagoner

What is your role in agriculture?

I am living the dream as Director of Communication for the Kentucky Soybean Board and the Kentucky Soybean Association. I am the Kentucky staff lead for CommonGround, and I admin the Facebook pages for both soybean and the Livestock Coalition in our state. I make my living talking and writing about food and farming – how awesome is that?

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

I have always lived in the country, and I’ve been around farming all of my life. I will never forget my first jobs as a teenager – one year (ONE!) I grew strawberries for sale to our local restaurants and markets, and after that I spent some time pulling plants and riding the tobacco setter. As an adult, I was part of a small-scale cow/calf operation, and learned to really love livestock – especially cows. When I finally settled into the RGDJ, I realized that because I knew a lot of farmers and some members of my family farm, I had just assumed that everyone knew farmers are the good guys (and gals), out there doing the right thing and feeding the world. When I realized that the trust I’ve always had for farmers wasn’t the norm, I knew I needed to do my part to help share what I’ve learned (and what I have always known) with those who may not be so fortunate.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

Sharing my experiences. I have been SO blessed to see a lot of diverse things as a result of my job, that a lot of folks will never see. I’ve been in large-scale hog operations with gestation stalls on one side and open housing on the other, so that I could stand in one place and see sows living under both housing systems at the same time. I’ve also been on farms with hogs who live in pens outside. I’ve been in chicken barns and turkey barns and goat operations and assorted dairy barns and parlors, and of course Kentucky is a big beef-cattle state. All of the animal ag connections are addition to the exciting things I have learned about row-cropping. I can talk about biotech crops, water, nutrient management, sustainability and technology all day.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

For me, it’s letting people share what they believe, and asking for more information when I already know that they’ve gotten ahold of some incorrect information. I’m thankful for the CommonGround program, and the training we receive through it. I’ve learned that people don’t want to be educated (because that means they were wrong)… they want to make connections and build relationships. Luckily, I’m good at that!

What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

I think everyone should tell their story. Your story is uniquely yours, and it’s not all happy spring calves and the first soybean sprouts breaking through the soil on a beautiful sunny day. Sometimes it’s a down cow that doesn’t recover or having to sell your herd or a drought or a fire or a flood. Sometimes it’s a tragic farming accident. That’s still part of the story, and I think telling the WHOLE story helps those outside the ag community realize that those of us who work in ag are people – real people, good people, and people who care deeply about what we do.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?

AgChat 2015 – Cultivate and Connect, in Nashville, was my first AgChat event, and I almost cried. I have found my tribe! I do love working with the women of CommonGround, and all of my ag peeps, but to find a group made up completely of agriculture communicators? Yes, please and thank you.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

As I said, this is my tribe. These are my people. In addition to the friendships, this is an amazing network of resources.


Rae Charlton WagonerRae Wagoner is Director of Communication for the Kentucky Soybean Board and the Kentucky Soybean Association, and has found her career to be what she calls the “RGDJ” (redneck girl’s dream job) on her blog. Rae has always lived the rural lifestyle and jokes that she’s only ever dated one guy who didn’t wear the blue corduroy jacket… and THAT was a mistake! She resides in western Kentucky with her husband, Sutton, and her wiener dog, Savannah Jane., and enjoys reading, cowboy boots, wine and photography… not necessarily in that order.

Make sure to follow Rae on her blog, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest.

AgVocate on Instagram

Using Instagram to AgVocate for your farm or ranch is easier than you might think. Before you begin posting photos of your farm or ranch there are a few things to consider:

  1. Make sure your profile is set to public.
  2. Update your “Bio” in your profile settings to let everyone know a little about you & what your interests are.
  3. If you have a blog, include your blog URL in “Website” section of your profile to direct people to your blog.
  4. Select a profile picture. If you have multiple social media platforms (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) use the same photo across all platforms. Consistency across your platforms in theme, color, profile photos, etc. is important.

Link your Instagram to other social media platforms like Facebook & Twitter.

  1. Twitter: It’s always best to directly upload photos to Twitter, but linking your Instagram will gain exposure to your Instagram account.
  2. Facebook:
    1. Personal Facebook Page- Linking to your personal account is a great option if you do not have a public page to share your farm/ranch.
    2. Public Farm Page- You can link your Instagram to you public farm/ranch page to agvocate on multiple platforms and to save time in sharing your story.

Now let’s post some photos!

  1. AgChat Passion is contagiousTake every day photos of your farm/ranch. Make sure the photos are high quality.
  2. Include your name, blog URL, or Instagram handle (i.e. @AgChatFoundation) or logo (as seen in graphic in the right) on your photos. This helps if others decide to share your photo, it will direct people back to you.
  3. Write a description as to what is happening in the photo that non-farmers would understand.
  4. Tag anyone in the photo that might be on Instagram (i.e. your family, friends, cooperative, a brand of tractor, etc.)
  5. Don’t be afraid to use hashtags! Post anywhere from 5 to 10 hashtags in the comments after you post your photo. Use farm related hashtags (#AgChat, #Farm365, #FarmLife), but also include non-farm related hashtags. Some examples would be #LifeStyle, #PhotoOfTheDay, #(Insert Your State Here), etc.
  6. Post your photo!

Make sure to follow the AgChat Foundation on Instagram & don’t forget to use the #AgChat hashtag!

Passion is contagious & builds goodwill. #AgChat

A photo posted by AgChat Foundation (@agchatfoundation) on


Why Do I AgVocate? – Jenny Burgess

What is your role in agriculture?

A Farmer of course. Being a mother and wife doesn’t prevent me from doing this. I do everything Jenny Burgessfrom helping work in the field and making business decisions. My husband and I are partners in this life on the farm, and that’s the way we like it.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

The absolute pull of the consumers. Questions being asked among my friends and family in my community. The town I live by is surrounded by Ag and supported by it, but it amazes me how little they know on what we do and why.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

Being able to tell our story. Our story is unique and ours. We hope to inspire other young people to follow their dreams, never how hard they may be. Also being able to give a face to a consumer on what a farmer looks like. We don’t all wear overalls and straw hats.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

Having fellow farmers or ranchers tell us we’re doing it wrong. It frustrates us beyond measure. It’s just different, not wrong. Every farm and farmer are different in their operation, just like everyone’s approach to agvocating is different. I wish we would spend more time lifting each other up, rather than tearing each other down. Consumers see that and are not impressed.

What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

Just start!! Whether it be just one thing, start. You may be good at pictures, than do Instagram. Maybe you don’t want/like to do social media, that’s ok. Start with inviting your friends or family to your farm. They may come to your home and sit inside but how many times have they come when you’re operating? It all starts with them. See they have friends and family as well. They are all consumers. If they have a positive and personal connection with you, you already have something going for you that I can’t get on social media. Invite them out for the day. Tell them to ask questions, no questions is dumb. And remember, be respectful. Something that is obvious to us that we see every day isn’t to them. They’re there to learn from the expert, and guess what that is you!

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?

Being able to connect with consumers across the country/world. I’m always encouraged to see consumers engaging to farmers/ranchers that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to where they live. Another thing is being able to connect with other farmers/ranchers across the country/world.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

Being able to connect with other farmers and ranchers with the same Agvocating goals. I’ve found some true friends here. All come from different backgrounds but all have the same path in connecting our farms and ranches to the consumer. I continue to grow with organizations like AgChat. Always helpful tips from them on how to communicate better.


Jenny Burgess Jenny Burgess is a Farmer who farms with her husband and two children in the heart of central Kansas. She grew up on a hobby farm not too far from where she raises her family now. The only child, she learned the true meaning of hard work. From bucking bales, feeding animals, and driving antique tractors, she was a girl who tried to keep up with her dad with the chores. She met her husband, who was from England, and eventually got married. They both had the dream of owning their own farm. Today that dream still lives and is growing, along with two kids. They grow Wheat, Corn, Soybeans, and Milo, all dryland crops.

Follow Jenny on her blog, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Why Do I AgVocate? -Rhonda Stoltzfus

What is your role in agriculture?

My role is ever changing in agriculture. Ten years ago, I would have said ‘Iowa fruit grower’. Today, I live on a postage-stamp-sized piece of land on Maui and spend most of my time communicating with others about agriculture. My husband’s career as a plant breeder brought us to Hawaii where I discovered many people have a limited point of reference about agricultural practices in the Midwest.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

I was inspired to be an agvocate while sitting in a book club discussion one Sunday afternoon. A girlfriend I’d known for years said, “I don’t know what GMO’s are, but I know they’re bad”. I was in a unique position to answer, but remained silent. I went home and decided to start speaking out about not only transgenic crops, but all of agriculture. So much of agriculture is deeply misunderstood.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

My favorite part of agvocating is when friends come to me with a question. I love hearing their point of view. I don’t always know the answers to their questions, but I love digging into a topic and learning what’s real and what might be a myth. Sometimes I’m surprised, and what I thought was true – isn’t. Fact based answers to the burning questions people have are what it’s all about!

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

The personal attacks are the hardest to handle, especially when they involve our children. We have a unique situation in Hawaii at the moment, and these are tiny islands where an online threat of “I’ll spray you with RoundUp” isn’t coming from hundreds of miles away, it’s coming from the next street over.

What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

Dive in with what you’re comfortable doing. If you’re on social media already, join in the conversation. If you prefer talking in person, chat with your neighbors and friends in the community. Ask them what they think about your corner of agriculture, and listen to what they have to say. Understanding the concerns people have is the first step in communicating.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?

I attended AgChat in Nashville this past November and found it to be a fantastic experience. Two things stand out to me. First, Hawaii is very isolated from the rest of the country and it was great to connect with other agvocates. Second, don’t beat people over the head with information! Find out what their questions are and give a clear answer. It’s not about what I think someone needs to hear, it’s about answering their questions.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

AgChat connects farmers and consumers in a way that is easy to access. I love the Twitter chats each week where anyone with a question has access to the people that might have the answer. I also love that it connects agvocates with one another. We have weekly pizza parties in our backyard, and thanks to #agchat, we frequently turn online relationships into real life friendships over a wood fired pie.


Rhonda StoltzfusRhonda grew up in Northern California, graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Horticulture, and was lucky enough to marry a farm boy. She established a fruit farm in SE Iowa before following her farmer, David, to Hawaii where he grows seed corn. Her life in Maui currently revolves around 3 teenage children and all things agriculture. The Stoltzfuses were recently honored as the Hawaii Farm Bureau Family of the Year.

Follow along with Rhonda on her blog, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

2016 Cultivate & Connect conference announced

The AgChat Foundation is dedicated to empower farmers, ranchers, and agriculturalists with2016 Cultivate & Connect - AgChat.org the tools to share their stories to consumers – on social media, one-on-one connections and at the legislative level. The Foundation does so through online materials, regional events, and global conferences.


The 2016 Cultivate & Connect global conference will be held December 8-9, 2016, in Kansas City. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn from the best of the best in social media, agriculture advocacy and interpersonal skills. The event will open with keynote speaker Vance Crowe who will set the stage with his motivational expertise and experience.

Vance Crowe opening keynote speaker at the 2016 Cultivate & Connect conference - AgChat.org

Registration for the event will begin June 15. Watch for further keynote announcements in the coming weeks.

For information pertaining to sponsorship opportunities of this event, please contact Jenny Schweigert at 309-241-8803 or execdir@agchat.org. We look forward to working with you.

Thirsty Land Proves to Be Powerful Connection Tool for AgVocates

The global release of the Thirsty Land documentary took place during the 2016 Water for Food Global conference on the campus of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Emmy-award winning director and producer, Conrad Weaver, aims to provide a conversation starter between consumers and the agriculture industry.

Thirsty Land is a conversation starter and bridge between agriculture and urban Lake Mead - Thirsty Land documentary - AgChat.orgcommunities. Water is a controversial topic in the western U.S. It is also a basic survival need for the entire U.S., and can be a common thread between consumers and the agriculture community.

“What I didn’t expect was that I’d still be thinking about it two days later. And I think about it every time I turn on the faucet. Every. Single. Time,” said Tracy Zeorian, Nebraska wheat harvester and film viewer. “To see people struggling to survive by doing whatever it takes to have water to drink and to bathe with was an eye opener. I see this in other countries, not in the United States! Water and food goes hand in hand for survival – for OUR survival. As with education of where our food comes from, we’ve got to impress the importance of water conservation. This film will make that happen.”

The AgChat Foundation is dedicated to empowering farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists with the tools to share their stories with those disconnected from agriculture.

“Its essential that agriculture advocates know and understand their ‘why’ and ‘what.’ Conrad has captured both and framed this information in a way which connects with consumers,” said Jenny Schweigert, executive director of the AgChat Foundation. “Thirsty Land includes various perspectives which will correlate the fluctuation of agriculture to local economies.”

As the in-kind, fiscal sponsor, the AgChat Foundation assists ConjoStudios, Inc., with fund raising for the project, providing tax benefits to donors. Fundraising will continue in an effort to market and distribute the film. Screenings of the film can also be coordinated by visiting http://www.thirstylandmovie.com/screenings/.


AgChat to Continue the Ask the Farmers Project

An open letter to the members of the Ask the Farmers & AgChat communities:

Agvocacy, much like agriculture, is a constantly evolving world that we all must work hard to keep up in. Challenges Ask The Farmers Logofrom consumers, skeptics, activists, and bureaucrats are constantly questioning our production systems, no matter what they may be. In the last few years, these challenges have only increased, and the rhetoric has only become more and more polarizing.

Then, from the darkness, appear these beacons of hope. And just like the glow from a lighthouse, they begin to shine through the fog and show us the way forward. Over the past several months, I’ve watched in awe as a few dedicated folks began to shine that light by addressing questions that our customers have in the most basic and non-confrontational of ways; by “asking the farmers”.

The work of Ask the Farmers has been nothing short of amazing. The group has shown tremendous dedication and leadership towards a cause that is far greater than any one person or group of people. They have chosen to dedicate their time and talents to opening their barn doors and tractor cabs for all the world to see.

And the results have been amazing.

It has, however, been taxing on the creators of the group. As I’m sure you can understand, it takes considerable time and effort to manage a community that has grown so quickly. The founders should be commended for the hard work and dedication they have shown up to this point. However, the time commitments of this group have simply become too great for them.

Last week, The AgChat Foundation, a 501c3 non profit, began talks with the creators of the Ask The Farmers group to acquire the rights, trademarks, and domain names of the group. I’m pleased to announce that we have secured those rights. I’d like to make it very clear at this point that we have no plans or ideas to change the basic structure of Ask The Farmers.

The community, that you are all invested in, works, and it works well. We, as ACF, want to continue ATF (ask the farmers) as a stand-alone, independent group, with ACF providing the back-office support that this type of undertaking requires. It is our hope that ATF will continue to be a place where folks can ask questions, seek answers, and find the farmers and bloggers that help connect farm to fork.

This is a very exciting time for Ask The Farmers. We hope that everyone will continue to help us grow the community, and continue to connect consumers with the food we produce every day. In the meantime, if you have any, and I do mean ANY questions, please do not hesitate to contact myself or any of the other members of our ACF/ATF transition team.


Jeff VanderWerff

President and Board Chairman

AgChat Foundation, Inc.


Contact Information:

Jeff VanderWerff, President and Board Chair 

Marie Bowers Stagg, Vice President

Brian Scott, Secretary

Zach Hunnicutt, Treasurer

Krista Stauffer, Director & Ask the Farmers Founder/Admin

Jenny Schweigert, Executive Director

There’s a time and a place for everything – insight on the #AgChat & #AgVocate hash tag

There’s a time and a place for everything – insight on the #AgChat & #AgVocate hash tag

“There’s a time and a place for everything,” was a comment my mother often made. This statement has magically become one of my popular pieces of advice for my three boys. A perfect example is the time my youngest son and I were waiting in line to checkout at the grocery store. To make the time go faster, the woman in front of us struck up a conversation with my son. They began talking about his lambs. She asked him to share their names and what he will do with his pets. He quickly corrected her and explained, “that we will be probably be eating the lambs,” and went into much more detail. The woman’s tongue became temporarily frozen as she finished the transaction and quickly left without an opportunity for my explanation. Based on the woman’s reaction, I feared we would be met by the Department of Child Welfare once we arrived home.

He was truthful, frank and did accurately describe our intentions for the lambs. He shared the information with pride because of the time and care he has taken to ensure the lambs were treated humanely and to the best of our ability. If we had been sitting with family around the television on Sunday afternoon, the conversation would have been completely normal. The right place and the right time.

The grocery store check-out line was neither the right time nor place to be discussing his ‘pets.’

What determines the right time or place?

Generally speaking, the audience. The woman sharing the grocery line was not the right audience to be sharing as detailed information at that point in time.

The same can be said for the use of the term agvocate. People who are outside of the agriculture industry have been known to comment that the word includes a typo. It’s not a familiar term to them and carries very little value. Social media profiles used across multiple platforms are required to fit into a small set of characters. When working with limited characters, every word counts and must include words which clearly connect with your intended audience.

I’m proud to be an agvocate

In my years at the AgChat Foundation, I’ve met many farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists who are proud agvocates – and rightfully so. Whether you are first generation ranchers or seventh, there is pride in what you do. It’s an inherited gift we all share and should continue to celebrate, among the right audience.

My intended audience includes a targeted group of people, generations removed from the farm who share common interests such as the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, home renovation, hunting/fishing and parents of all boys. It’s a crowd which has no connection to the term AgVocate, so I choose to avoid using the word with my communication to this audience. It is simply not the right place.

It is also not useful to include the #AgChat hash tag when I’m trying to reach beyond the choir. Moms of boys and St. Louis Cardinal fans are not searching for AgChat, most will use hash tags such as #boymom, #momofallboys, #StlCards, #GoCards, etc…

If your intended audience is other farmers and ranchers telling their stories, then the use of the #AgChat and #AgVocate hash tags will likely draw the attention of those individuals.

How do I determine which hash tags to use to reach my intended audience?

This is fully dependent upon your target audience. Visit our blog post, “Non-Ag Hash Tags You Should Watch,” for suggestions and ideas of useful non-agriculture hash tags.

My mother also told me, “choose your words wisely,” and I’m often reminded that not only is there a time and place for everything, we need to pause and think of what we say, or type, before we speak or push the enter key.

After all, we want to engage with our audiences and inform them where we can; not leave them more confused that when we started the conversation.

written by Jenny Schweigert